WASHINGTON – Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes, Anthony G. Brown, Jamie B. Raskin, David Trone, and Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) wrote to Governor Larry Hogan today to express their concern with his plan to proceed with in-person voting for the November 3 general election. The lawmakers called on Governor Hogan to rescind his directive and issue new guidance to maximize safety and voter participation. Under Governor Hogan’s announced plan, all in-person voting locations will be open and voters would have to request an absentee ballot through the Board of Elections to vote by mail. While they agree that limited polling locations should be available for Marylanders needing to vote in-person, the Delegation is concerned that there are not enough resources to sufficiently open and staff all polling locations.
“Maryland voters expect and deserve free, fair, and safe elections, and we are alarmed that your directive does not meet that basic standard,” write the lawmakers. “We call on you to rescind the directive and issue new guidance designed to maximize both safety and voter participation by mailing ballots for the general election to all registered voters, as was done in the primary.”
“This decision inherently introduces numerous new choke points that could lead to voters being disenfranchised,” continue the lawmakers. “We fully expect that mail-in ballots will again result in a larger number of voters in the November election and could set record levels of voter turnout. We would urge you to reverse that decision and have ballots mailed directly to voters, without the need to request them.”
“If the decision is made to proceed with this two-step process, we urge you to provide every necessary resource to educate the public, ensure citizens can easily obtain a ballot, and help county boards of election process applications in a timely manner,” said the lawmakers. “We also urge you to provide adequate resources to ensure that this decision can be carried out by our state and local election administrators.”
Specifically, we are distressed by your decision to reverse course on the issue of mailed ballots. As you know, during the June 2 rescheduled primary election your office required the State Board of Elections to send all registered voters ballots proactively. Under your new directive, the State Board of Elections will be required to mail Maryland voters a ballot application for completion to receive a ballot.
This decision inherently introduces numerous new choke points that could lead to voters being disenfranchised. We fully expect that mail-in ballots will again result in a larger number of voters in the November election and could set record levels of voter turnout. We would urge you to reverse that decision and have ballots mailed directly to voters, without the need to request them. If the decision is made to proceed with a two-step process, which we hope will not happen, this two-step process will likely confuse many voters who rightly expect – given their recent experience with the June primary – that they will be mailed ballots proactively. If the decision is made to proceed with this two-step process, we urge you to provide every necessary resource to educate the public, ensure citizens can easily obtain a ballot, and help county boards of election process applications in a timely manner. We also urge you to provide adequate resources to ensure that this decision can be carried out by our state and local election administrators. As you know, the mailing of applications will strain already-under-resourced state and local elections administrators. In fact, local election administrators warned that this decision will lead to “devasting consequences,” exhausting limited resources on additional printing and on the processing of applications. This will have the unfortunate impact of reducing the pool of resources available to provide Marylanders with a safe and accessible election.
While we agree with your decision to maintain early voting and in-person voting locations, we hope that you will maintain maximum flexibility in determining those locations. As you work with the State Board of Elections to ensure that the in-person voting experience in November proceeds as smoothly as possible, you should consider how best to ensure an adequate number of poll workers are trained and ready to conduct the election. We believe that we need to assemble a dedicated workforce for this purpose – for example, by recruiting young Marylanders – and to identify large facilities (such as sports arenas, University of Maryland system facilities, and other state assets that have ample parking and plenty of room for social distancing) to be used as voting centers. We stand ready to work with you to accomplish these objectives.
As you know, Congress continues to consider additional election preparedness assistance. Maryland has already received $7,452,501 in supplemental election assistance under the CARES Act. On May 15, the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which would provide an additional $3.6 billion in election assistance to the states. This legislation is awaiting consideration by the Senate. We understand that this election must receive the resources needed to ensure that every Marylander who is eligible to vote can cast a ballot, and we urge you to use all options at your disposal to help make certain that this election is fully funded.
We look forward to continuing to work with you to protect the right of every Marylander to cast a ballot safely, securely, and without undue hindrance in November.